Novak Djokovic’s record against British players ahead of Davis Cup showdown
Serbia have been drawn to play against Great Britain in the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup, with Novak Djokovic’s record against his potential opponents making for ominous reading.
Djokovic is leading the Serbian charge as they target a first Davis Cup win since 2010 and this draw serves up the possibility of Andy Murray renewing his rivalry with his old friend and foe.
Yet a more compelling case could be made for Dan Evans or Jack Draper to play against Djokovic, with Murray’s form in 2023 suggesting he is not playing at a level that would challenge the world No 1.
Britain secured their place in November’s knockout stage by finishing top of qualifying Group B after their thrilling 2-1 win against France, against captain Leon Smith opted against playing Murray in the decisive match.
In a thrilling finale, Briatin secured their place in this year’s finals after Dan Evans and Neal Skupski saved four match points in their decisive doubles match against French pair Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin at a sold-out AO Arena in Manchester.
Evans and Skupski clinched a 1-6 7-6 (4) 7-6 (6) win in the deciding rubber after earlier 2-1 wins against both Australia and Switzerland.
Now Great Britain captain Smith has some big decisions to make ahead of the clash with Serbia after his move to play Norrie in the crucial game against France raised a few eyebrows.
Smith decided to pick his two highest-ranked players for the must-time tie against a strong French side, yet Norrie’s poor form in 2023 and his defeat against Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka earlier in the week in Manchester made that something of a contentious pick.
Jack Draper’s fine form and his win against Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis ensured he presented a compelling case for selection against France.
Yet Smith opted to pick a misfiring Norrie and he ultimately lost against France’s Ugo Humbert in disappointing fashion.
Looking ahead to the clash with Serbia, Norrie has lost all three matches he has played against Djokovic, including the 2022 Wimbledon semi-final.
Draper lost the only match he has played against Djokovic, but he impressed as he took the first set against the Serbian legend at Wimbledon two years ago.
Andy Murray had a long and thrilling rivalry with Djokovic when he was at the peak of his powers, winning 11 of the 36 meetings against a player he beat in the 2012 US Open final and the 2013 Wimbledon final.
The intriguing statistics come with Novak’s his head-to-head against Evans, with the talisman of Britain’s Davis Cup team beating the world No 1 in their opening meeting so far at the Monte-Carlo Masters in 2021.
Repeating that success would be no easy task for Evans, but he has admitted playing for his country means more to him than any other tournament.
“Davis Cup is why I played tennis at the start,” said Birmingham-born Evans.
“A lot of the ties were in Birmingham and I went to all of them. That was my first introduction to professional tennis.
“For me, that was the be-all and end-all, was to play Davis Cup for your country, and it still is.
“I’ve played a lot of big matches on tour and while I’m never a nervous person, it feels different before a Davis Cup match.”
Smith will not have a few weeks to ponder who will face Djokovic first when his side goes into battle with Malaga and even if the task of beating the undisputed world No 1 may prove to be impossible for any of his players, Evans appears to be best equipped to bring a fearless attitude into that battle.
Smith and Evans have shared something of a strained relationship down the years, but the duo need to combine now as Great Britain look to make the most of their potential squad depth against a team dominated by the presence of the great Djokovic.
The complete Davis Cup draw sees defending champions Canada facing Finland, the Czech Republic playing Group B runners-up Australia and the Netherlands taking on Italy.
The final eight nations will compete for the 2023 Davis Cup in Malaga from November 21-26.
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